The Dark Hills Divide (The Land of Elyon, Book 1) Review
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My eight-year-old friend Emily loves to read. And since I happen to love reading books for kids, Emily and I tend to discuss books a lot. We’ve discussed Harry Potter. We’ve compared notes on the Series of Unfortunate Events (and we agree that The Miserable Mill is our least favorite). And the last time we discussed books, Emily introduced me to Patrick Carman’s The Land of Elyon books. She told me that she liked the first book in the series, The Dark Hills Divide, so much that I just had to borrow it. So I did.

The Dark Hills Divide is told through the eyes of twelve-year-old Alexa Daley. Alexa’s father is the mayor of Lathbury, a small walled city in the Kindgom of Elyon. Each summer, Alexa and her father travel down the walled-in road to Bridewell, the city at the center of the kingdom. There, Alexa is free to roam through Renny Lodge and curl up in the library while her father meets with the kingdom’s other leaders. Alexa has always imagined stepping outside the walls that surround their entire kingdom—and the death of their beloved leader, Thomas Warvold, leads Alexa to a number of clues that point the way to the other side of the wall.

Once outside the wall, Alexa meets a tiny man named Yipes, who was expecting her arrival. He leads her to a secret meeting, where Alexa learns that Bridewell is in danger. There’s an enemy known as Sebastian living inside the wall, and he’s plotting to lead an attack on the city. Alexa is sent back to Bridewell to find the traitor—and to stop him before it’s too late.

The Dark Hills Divide is an imaginative and suspenseful story that will have readers—both young and old—on the edge of their seats. Alexa is both an intelligent, resourceful young woman and an adventurous kid—which makes her a fun character to follow. And at 250 large-print pages, this book isn’t nearly as intimidating as a Harry Potter book.

Grown-up readers will notice, though, that the story isn’t the most carefully constructed. There’s very little character development. In fact, readers barely get to know any of the book’s characters besides Alexa. There are also a number of holes in the plot—as well as questions that go unanswered and conclusions that don’t always make sense. Those, however, are picky little things that adults might catch—while kids really won’t care if it all comes together perfectly. It’s important to remember that this is a kids’ book—and if it doesn’t have all the detail and complexity of a book written for adults, that’s okay. It’s a fun, exciting book that you and your kids will both enjoy—and that makes it worth checking out.

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